Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday's Tricky Tempo Situation

Tempo Run: A sustained effort in the range of a persons lactate threshold which serves to increase the speed a runner can maintain for prolonged periods of time.

My legs seem to be a bit confused lately. After last weeks messy tempo run, I really wanted to nail down a consistent tempo this week. I haven't been doing many of these runs lately and have instead been opting for hard effort fartlek speed sessions. While I think that there isn't a specific number one needs to hit for their tempo, I do think that it should be a challenging (but not a race paced) effort where the runner aims for fairly consistent splits while running controlled.

A tempo run:
  • shouldn't be an all out balls-to-the-walls run
  • shouldn't leave the runner feeling completely spent and out of gas upon completion
  • should help a runner to increase lactate threshold and gain speed
  • should help a runner learn consistency in pace and how to control speed
  • should teach a runner to learn to adapt

Gave my ever-loved tempo run another go yesterday where again I just couldn't get into my groove for the first mile. Maybe it was because I was running into a strong head wind coming off of the lake or the fact that my legs still were working out some kinks that they had left over from Monday, either way the entire first mile I felt like I was pressing a lot harder then a 6:50 pace and wasn't sure I'd be able to finish the workout. 

This workout turned out to be a mess.

Once I turned out of the wind in mile two, my blood begun to churn heat through my body that left me feeling like I was really cooking with fire. The pace suddenly became easier and I felt the right amount of discomfort for the remaining four miles and begun to settle into my pace. My body and mind felt in control of this tempo where I was almost positive that those last four miles were 6:40's even though I didn't check my watch once during the workout. Then I plugged the good ole garmin into my computer a few hours later and felt confused. 

How the heck did a 6:29 mile sneak in there?
Shouldn't this have felt a bit more trying?
Am I getting faster or am I just pushing too hard?

For me speed workouts aren't about pressing myself until exhaustion. There is little to no benefit for me to hammer it out as fast as I can for any type of workout. As I was telling Nicole last week, I just cannot recover from those types of workouts and I think this a good way to burn myself out. Trying to squeeze every ounce of speed from my legs in every workout is plain crazy, and making the mistake of running medium-hard all of the time will not produce the maximum outcome I'm looking for from my training this time around. Believe me, I've been there and learned this the hard way on several different occasions.

But what happens when the months of hard work all begin to slowly show signs of improvement and your old norm just doesn't cut it like it used to? 
Do you hold back? 
Do you press harder? 
Do you just ignore the garmin and run solely based on feel?

Even though I'm training intuitively this time around, I'm still trying to learn consistency and control over my paces so that I don't peak too early, burn out, or run myself into the ground causing some crazy unwanted injury. I do believe that I have somehow managed to pick up some speed in the past few months and credit most of that to rest, the maniac circuits I've been doing at the gym (some of which you can find under this tab), and listening to my body. But I'm still 3 weeks out from my 8k, 11 weeks from my 1/2 marathon, and 12 weeks from my 10 miler...meaning that there is still a long road ahead where slow progression needs to be made.

I think that I just need to incorporate a few more tempos in my training and reconsider my goal pace to get the maximum benefit from this workout, seems like the legs are a bit more eager to move then I thought they would be at this point in time.

Tempo runs, how do you determine your pacing?


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  2. Awesome run!!!

    I try to do my pacing on the treadmill because I don't have a Garmin yet. It's coming, though! :)

  3. Great run - you are so incredibly speedy!

    I often have the opposite problem with my tempo runs. Many times I feel like I am running a much faster pace than my Garmin indicates. It's so disappointing! But either way, it still begs the question of how you determine your pacing. I am looking forward to seeing the community's thoughts on this.

  4. Okay I needed this. I keep reading different things about what the heck tempo runs are. I have never really incorporated them but know they are so important. I just used to run and run at the same speed over and over again. This helps a lot! Thank you :)

  5. Great run! Sometimes on tempo runs I feel like I hold myself back too much, but then again maybe I don't. I am sure not as fast as you though...maybe someday!

  6. I needed this too, I am heading out for a tempo run now but I never really know what I should be doing. Thanks for this :)

  7. For tempos, I am a die-hard Jack Daniels vDot user. He assigns you a vDot # based on a finish time from a recent race, and then you can see your assigned workout pace (tempos, intervals, etc) based on your vDot. It has been really successful for me over the past 8 months or so. Tempo runs used to be so hard for me but they have gotten a lot easier in the past few months.

  8. Tempo runs are hard for me to gauge as well. And it's really hard for me to be consistent with pace. I wish I had some help..but just here to say I'm right there with you!

  9. In tempo runs, I tend to run without music, because my pace can be influenced by music. I tend to speed up if it's an up-tempo song, which ruins trying to keep consistent with speed. Anyway, if I show signs of improving, I definitely press harder, but only about 2% harder than I planned for the week. Any sign of pain, I back off.

  10. Those are some great looking tempo numbers, Britt! I am sure you are getting faster!!
    I am with Sara, above, regarding training paces...but i like your question:

    "But what happens when the months of hard work all begin to slowly show signs of improvement and your old norm just doesn't cut it like it used to?
    Do you hold back?
    Do you press harder?
    Do you just ignore the garmin and run solely based on feel?"

    The training paces are there to maximize your improvement without too much added stress.
    I think the answer is to find a race and see if you have really improved! OR- if you trust it and want to save money, run a time trial. Then you might end up with new training paces :) Faster races are the best way to find your optimal zones.

    I would like to see what you do a 10k in!

  11. Ugh...not just "faster races" just "races" for finding your pace zones. Haha

  12. Ok wonderful summary of what a tempo run should look like.

    This afternoon, I was on the treadmill and wanted to do about 6 miles total with a few fast ones in the middle. Not sure what I had in mind for "fast", so I just played it by ear-- I ran hard, but not too hard that I couldn't sustain it or felt like I was all out, balls to the wall. I agree, running super hard during random weekday training sessions probably doesn't have a ton of benefit, because then your body has to recover from it...finding this pace is a fine line!

  13. For me, it's definitely not my race pace, but just a moderately uncomfortable run. I run about an 8:15 - 8:30 tempo run pace and a lot of times I run it by feel. It just depends on the day and how I'm feeling. Sometimes I'll throw some fartleks in there if I'm feeling spunky!

    Tempo really is my favorite type of run but I definitely could use some more track/speed work in my life!

    Your blog is very inspiring! Keep up the great work! :))

  14. I have a great book, "running formula" by Jack Daniels. It has some very helpful charts to help determine proper paces (easy, tempo, interval) based on your current fitness level (as determined by recent race times).

  15. Amazing run! I am still learning about tempo runs ... I am a rather slow runner so my tempo runs are around 8:45 min/mile!

  16. I use my HM pace for tempos at the beginning of the cycle, and try to move toward my planned HM pace toward the end. Right now I am doing a lot of HR training, all aerobic with just strides and progressions. Like you, I am about 10 weeks out of my HM goal race, and so I am not doing lots of speed yet. You are doing awesome!

    1. This tends to be the pace that I often shoot for as well.

  17. Awesome Run! Your paces are incredible. I run my tempos by feel. I clock 'em with my stopwatch each mile and I'm almost always within a 8:30ish range, which is exactly where the "experts" say I should be based on my race paces. I run hard for the tempo miles, but not out-of-breath, I'm gonna die... but definitely "I'm gonna be proud of this when I'm done."

  18. Interesting topic--tempos are such a gray area for speed. I love them, though. I run with a group of women and we did tempo work this week. I do think we get a bit carried away with our pace, sometimes, which is the dynamic of a group. Most of us don't even wear Garmin's, so we don't even know our pace. Still, I feel like I benefit from these efforts and do leave something in the tank after b/c I totally agree about not running yourself into the ground w/ training.